Album Reviews

1997: IQ - Subterranea

This year, until the year 2000, every week a special album will be reviewed. By doing that we're counting out time ... until 2000.

The albums which will be reviewed are either milestones in the history of progressive rock, or good examples of the catalogue of a certain band. Of course, we cannot review every special album and we cannot satisfy everyone's taste with our choices, which will be revealed over the year.

Our goal with this list of albums, is to show the quality and the diversity of different groups and different styles. So you won't find 6 Pink Floyd-albums, or 5 Genesis-albums, even though these bands have recorded many classics.

On this list, (almost) every week a new year is reviewed. For some years we will use two weeks, but at the end of December we will have reviews of every year, including the "dark" eighties...

We hope you will have lots of fun in the coming weeks with this selection of special albums that had been selected by the DPRP-team, especially for you!

You didn't think we would let Counting Out Time pass by without at least discussing one IQ album, did you? DPRP wouldn't be DPRP. We had to skip The Wake in 1985 because that was also the year of Misplaced Childhood and have choosen to devote some time and space on Landmarq in 1993, thereby skipping Ever as well. There's no way we're going to skip one of the greatest albums of all time, Subterranea (well, in my honest opinion, that is). We hope this elaborate essay on IQ's masterpiece will make up for skipping the other two highlights of their carreer. As a matter of fact, we made it a two part article. This first part will look at the history of IQ, the development of the album and the various songs. In part 2 we will take a closer look at the story of the album and how it was translated into an amazing live show.

(Quite) A Bit of History

In mid 1976 a band called The Lens was formed. The band had various personel changes but at a certain time it included Peter Nicholls, Mike Holmes and Martin Orford, who would later be band members in IQ. Their music mainly consisted of instrumental songs with the odd vocal contribution from Peter. Some of the songs that later ended up on IQ albums were first played by The Lens (for instance, Through the Corridors, About Lake Five and Dans le Parc Du Chateau Noir). The band even recorded a demo album called No TV Tonite.

When The Lens split up in 1981 Mike and Martin decided to form a new band with Tim Esau on bass and Mark Ridout on drums. In this period the band was not quite sure what musical direction to take, resulting in setlist filled with disco (Beef in Box), reggae (Barbell is In), complex progressive rock (It All Stops Here) and hard rock (Kevin from Mars). Mid 1982 Peter Nicholls joined IQ on vocals, shortly afterwards followed by Paul Cook who took over the drum stool from Mark. In September of the same year IQ released their cassette only album Seven Stories into Eight that featured 8 tracks recorded during in several sessions during the previous year.

After extensive gigging the band released their first album Tales from the Lush Attic, which featured the epics The Last Human Gateway and The Enemy Smacks plus live favourite Awake and Nervous, in September 1983.
Their second album, the legendary The Wake was released in June 1985. The album has been called one of the highlights of progressive rock in the eighties but was overshadowed by that other 1985 release Misplaced Childhood. Tensions within the band, which had been living together in one house, resulted in Peter Nicholl's departure from IQ one month after the release of their new album.

With Paul Menel as their new singer, IQ entered a new era in their history. The band tried to become the big rock starts they had always dreamed about being and that goal seemed to become quite obtainable when they were offered a deal by Squawk, a sub-division of Polygram. After the release of their firsy album with Squawk, Nomzamo, in April 1987 the band went on their first European tour.
In February 1989 their second Squawk album, Are You Sitting Comfortably ?, was released. As the previous one, this album also contained quite a few commercial tracks which would make potential hit singles. However, even the tour as support act with Mike and the Mechanics did - although well received by the fans - not bring the expected success and in the summer of 1989 Squawk had to drop the band, after financial problems for the label and lack of dedication from Polygram.

Tim and Paul left IQ and everyone probably thought that this was the end of the band. However, two occassional gigs with Peter Nicholls as special guests and the shock of the death of bass player Les Marshall, who had been an important part in IQ history, brought the band back together again. Early 1991 Peter, Martin, Mike and Paul decided to continue the band with John Jowitt on bass. A new record label, Giant Electric Pea, was founded and a live/rarities album J'ai Pollette d'Arnu financed the recording of a new IQ album, Ever, which was released in June 1993. A concert in Kleeve at which the album was launched was later releaed in the live CD/Video box set Forever Live, in April 1996.

Ever was the album that the fans had been waiting for. With Peter back as a frontman and lots of complex progressive rock songs the CD ranked number one in many reader polls that year. IQ had by now changed into a part-time band. Most of the band members had day-time jobs. The advantage was that they only worked together if everybody really felt like it. The disadvantage up to this day is the extreme difficulty to get the band together. The fact that they live very far apart (as far as Southampton and Manchester) doesn't help either. All of this results in short tours and rare rehearsal or writing sessions. It took them four years to come with the successor of Ever. Then again, Subterranea turned out to be well worth the wait .....

(For a more elaborate history of IQ, check out Maurice Dam's splendid article From Beef Till Ever on The Lush Attic).

The Making of Subterranea

As early as the end of 1994 the band started playing new compositions to the audiences of their live shows. The earliest thing was a short instrumental intro for The Darkest Hour (later to become the intro for The Narrow Margin). In 1995 two additional songs followed, one of which was an instrumental version of Breathtaker (the other one was never used).

In 1996 during a short tour to promote Forever Live the band played the first 10 minutes of the epic The Narrow Margin (then called Clank Tingy Tingy), Laid Low & Breathtaker (Big Pouf Paino) and a new song that would not make it to the new album (Big Pouf Hair later to be called Eyes for the Blind).
At this time the band was still planning to release their new album in the end of 1996.

After the gigs in April the composing of the album progressed. The band even turned down several offers for gigs because they had reserved the concerned periods for writing sessions of the album. A new (later) release date of March 1997 was announced and the band planned to start a promotional tour in April 1997.
Then in November 1996 the band announced that the release of the album would be postponed even further; September 1997 ! However, the good news was that the band had decided to really go for it and make it a double CD concept album, complete with theatrical stage show with a full length performance of the album.
There were an enormous number of ideas for both the album and the show. The band had always wanted to write a concept album which they could also bring live with a big show. As you can imagine the excitement among the fans was enormous and the good news made everybody forget the postponed release date.

By this time the various working titles that had been used for the album for short or long periods. Titles like Too Many Wigs, Wherein Swam Swans, Wacks Away Me Hearties!, Lost in Toast, Gonks go Beat and Bitten by Bats were dropped in favour of a new title, being Subterranea. Judging from that title, the band must have had a pretty good idea about the story back then.

When we got further into 1997 the band worked hard at different parts of the whole concept; the music, the lyrics, the sleeve and the stage show. Several production meetings with band and crew took place and Martin did some computer pre-production work.
Recording sessions for Subterrenea were planned to start in June and there was still a lot of work to be done.

In March 8 tracks had been written, which equalled about 50 minutes of 'raw' music. In May 1997, a month before the recording sessions would begin, the band did a short tour during which they played State of Mine (New 7/8), Failsafe (Seagulls/All Night Long), Laid Low/Breathtaker and Speak my Name. Another Subterannean piece of work also saw the light of day during these concerts: a pre-view T-shirt. It had a small white IQ-logo and the title Subterranea in a red, hand-written looking font on the front. On the back there was a big white barcode with the strange word 5U67ERR4NE4 beneath it. In the font they used on the t-shirt you can identify this as Subterranea.

In June 1997 recording sessions for the new album began, as well as a race against the clock to have it ready for the two launch gigs planned in the beginning of September. When the band eventually went into the studio (Nomansland, New Forest) on the 16th of June, more than 3/4 of the material had already been written. This equaled about 80 minutes of music (of which the audience had heard 6 pieces till now).
In June most of the drums, bass and guitar were put down. The final guitar parts were added on the 5th of July. The keyboards and vocals were added after that.
More new music was written in the studio and the final product ended up at a nifty 19 tracks and 102mins 31secs.

On the 10th of August the finishing touches were put on the mixing process. Ten days later the album was mastered at The Townhouse (London). The lyrics and artwork were added and ... voila: a new album was born.
The release of the album was anticipated in a '7 day countdown' on the Official IQ Internet site. Each day a couple of titles from the track list were revealed and people could listen to some samples from the album and look at pictures taken in the studio during the recording sessions.

The first production batch of 15.000 copies of Subterranea arrived at GEP on the 3rd of September; just in time for the Bury gig two days later, where the album would be officially released. And then it finally was the 5th of September and the fans who attented one or both gigs at The Met could get their grubby hands on the new CD. The new studio album for which they had been waiting for so long ...

The album had nineteen tracks, varying from a mere one and a half minute to the twenty minutes closing piece. The general feel of the album is a bit like a cross between Ever and The Wake, although it's really unlike anything the band had ever done, and much more 'ambitious' than those albums.
The music varies from dark and heavy to quiet and emotional. There were several musical themes that keep coming back throughout the album, like the 'clank tingy tingy' sound, the King of Fools theme and the Infernal Chorus theme.
Guest musician Tony Wright plays saxophone on Subterranea and Capricorn.

The album features photographic artwork and pictures that illustrate the concept of the album. Unlike the other albums with Pete, there was no Peter Nicholls drawings to be found in this one. Instead, the artwork was done by Tony Lythgoe, who has done the design of Forever Live previously.
The artwork also showed two new IQ logo's. The first is a 'quick painted' version in the same style as the album title. The second one, which can also be detected in various pictures in the 20-page booklet, is a rectangle with a circle and four dots, representing a cryptic IQ.

The Songs

I'm not going to describe what the different songs on the album sound like. You probably already know them by heart. If not, you should be ashamed of yourself and go out and buy a copy right away. Instead of reviewing the songs I have compiled all the interesting trivia I have been able to dig up (with special thanks to IQ keyboard player Martin Orford). Here's the story behind each song.

Overture - Martin: "We always had an Overture in mind for the start of Subterranea, but some of the ones we came up with in band rehearsals were pretty dire, although we did get some ideas that were eventually used. In the end I just put the best bits together on the computer and that was that." Overture features melodies that would later retun in the tracks Breathtaker, Tunnel Vision, Failsafe/King of Fools, Infernal Chorus and High Waters.

Provider - Martin: "One of my little "folk tunes", with lyrics by Peter. I had originally intended this tune to be an orchestrated piece not unlike something Ralph Vaughan-Williams might have done, but in the end, only the bare melody was used."

Subterranea - Martin: "Lyrics by Pete, chorus by Mike, verses by me, bass lines by JJ, stomp by Cookie, genius from Tony Wright."

Sleepless Incidental - Working title 'Acoustic Track'. Martin: "When we were running out of time to finish the album, we decided what sort of track should follow Subterranea, and I went away and wrote it all apart from the lyrics while the others were recording other songs."

Failsafe - It was known under the title All Night Long for a while because the start resembled a Rainbow song with the same name. Played live in the short May/June tour 1997 under the title '(Fucking) Seagulls'. Martin: "Never heard the seagulls title before! It wasn't inspired by "All Night Long", though it was noticed by Mike at an early stage that the tune bore some resemblance, even though it's in a completely different time signature. There's some really good stuff in Failsafe, especially the end section."

Speak My Name - A track which was initially meant as a song for Martin's solo album. First played live during the May/June 1997 tour. Martin: "Exactly right, it was a finished track that Peter added lyrics to, although the "Speak My Name" lines already existed."

Tunnel Vision - This one already existed when Paul Menel was still in the band, although with different lyrics (it was called Capital City at a very early stage). Working title for Subterranea: Life in a Day. Martin: "Yes it was called Capital City, but the lyrics were crap and it never worked as it should. Mike always hated the original verses, so he contributed new ones. The floating synth section at the end is one of my favourite parts of the album."

Infernal Chorus - Working title: The Kill. Martin: "A functional piece of drama constructed from riffs that also appear in other songs, especially Failsafe and Somewhere in Time."

King of Fools - Inspired by 'I am the Walrus' (Beatles). Working title: Beatlesy. Martin: "Peter had a song idea in his head when he came to visit me one weekend, and I got him to record it just before he got on the train to go home. That song became the middle section of Failsafe, and King of Fools is Mike's mutated and sinister arrangement of that section."

Sense in Sanity - The lyrics to this song were composed first. Martin later wrote the keyboard arrangements for it. Martin: "As an experiment Peter wrote the lyrics first, and I provided the music. The vocal melody is the same little folk song tune (although it's not a traditional one) that's used in Provider."

State of Mine - Working title: 'new 7/8'. Played as the first song after the intro tape during the short 1997 tour and went straight into It All Stops Here. Trivia: 'state of mine' is part of the lyrics of Breathtaker and Sense in Sanity was called 'State of Mine' at a certain stage. Martin: "State Of Mine is Mike's thrilling prog 7/8 arrangement of my piano piece that became Laid Low."

Laid Low/Breathtaker - In 1995 Breathtaker made it's live debut as a short instrumental piece of +/- 2-3 minutes which crossed over into the closing section of Last Human Gateway. Later (1996) it developed into it's current form under the name 'Big Pouf Piano'. Played again during the short 1997 tour. The lyrics were still changing during the recording sessions. Martin: "One of the earliest parts of Subterranea. The piano intro and the opening heavy guitar synth riff is mine, but much of the main song sections were by Mike and Peter."

Capricorn - Working title: Puckit. Martin:"A great song by Mike, using one of my riffs from Somewhere in Time as the chorus. Rob Aubrey and I didn't dare tell the others when we got Tony to put the sax parts down as we were sure thay wouldn't like them. Luckily we were wrong!"

The Other Side - Working title: Alesis. Martin: "A nice bit of atmospherics entirely written and performed by Mike."

Unsolid Ground - Working title: Plimpton. Martin: "A true band composition, this came out of a jam just before we were due to start recording, and was swiftly organised into a song."

Somewhere in Time - Working title: Bette Davis. Martin: "Another one that was finished late in the day, though most of it existed much earlier. I wrote all of it up to "So many held..", but Mike always reckoned the start sounded like 'Bette Davis Eyes' by Kim Carnes, hence the working title. The manic end section was a band composition with JJ taking a leading role."

High Waters - The start of the guitar solo originated in a song, written by Mike, that was played live in 1995 (and crossed over into Outer Limits) but was never released. Working title: Mimp. Martin: "A little tune of mine that was supposed to be part of a much longer track, it was embelished with melodies from elsewhere, and a very fine guitar solo indeed by Mike. A short track, but one that encapsulates much of IQ's strengths."

The Narrow Margin - The start of this song was already played live for the first time in the end of 1994 as an intro for Darkest Hour, accompanied by a poem recited by Pete. Later it grew into a 10 minute track 'Clank Tingy Tingy', played live in 1996. The bit after the 'fire sequence' was called 'ELB' because it sounded like Emerson Lake and Palmer.
Martin: "A huge rambling track. I was never quite sure if it would all work, and I'm still not sure if it does now. Although I contributed some sections to it, "The Narrow Margin" is Mike's tour-de-force, and he pretty much masterminded the whole structure of it with the input of Peter's lyrics and ideas for the plot."

Eyes for the Blind - Was orginally played live during 1996 under the title 'Big Pouf Hair'. Didn't make it on the album and was later released on the rarities album The Lost Attic. Martin: "Written by Peter and I (later with lovely guitar synth from Mike and fretless from JJ) in a very early session at Pete's house in Bolton. Pete's tune and lyrics; my chords."
Peter: "It's a reflective little track about regret and missed opportunities, and it would probably fit between 'Unsolid Ground' and 'Somewhere in Time'."

The Universal Scam - Another left-over from the Subterranea sessions, initially intented as a bonus track for a Japanese release of Subterranea. Only existed as an instrumental track prior to it being recorded for The Lost Attic. Martin: "Another track that pre-dates Subterranea. Built around a great heavy riff from Mike, this became a proper song quite late on, even though it had existed in some form or other for a number of years."
Peter: "This track would probably slot in somewhere between 'Speak my Name' and 'Tunnel Vision'.

Written by Ed Sander

Sources for Part 1:
From Beef Till Ever article.
Collected Underground article.
• The IQ FAQ.
• Various Official Fan Club Magazines and Fascination magazines.
• Various articles on The Lush Attic.
• Special thanks to Widge for his help!

Part 2

In part 2 we had a look at the classic 1997 album; IQ's Subterranea. We discussed the history of the band, the development of the album and the various tracks on it in Part One. Now, in Part Two, we take a closer look at what the concept of the double CD is all about, where it originated and how the band translated it into a marvellous multimedia live show.

The Story

The first question you might ask is 'why did IQ choose to do a concept album ?'. Peter Nicholls explains: "I think, right back at the start, I'd personally reached a point where I wanted to do something a bit different live because I think people coming to an IQ gig sort of had an idea of what tracks we might play. I thought it would be good to do something totally different. From the very early days, we'd always talked about doing a big visual show, something that wasn't a rock gig as such, but was more theatrical and like a film, almost.
We knew that in order to stage a new show, we'd need a whole lot of new material so I went through some old rehearsal tapes and found lots of stuff that we'd never used, and slowly the idea began to develop of doing a double album. We still haven't used most of that material. The majority of music on Subterranea was written specially for the album.
There obviously had to be a story to hold it all together and what was nice for me was that, as the music was being written, the story was also being put together. [And the visual ideas as well].
So the whole thing was a much more organic process. In the past, it's tended to be more divided where I would go away and write the lyrics to match the mood of the music we'd written. It felt more natural this way and much more exciting because everyone was involved."

The story of Subterranea was heavily influenced by the history of the enigmatic Casper Hauser. Peter Nicholls: "The initial idea I had was a German folk story of a guy called Kaspar Hauser who was found wandering around Nuremburg in 1828. He had no idea who he was and all he knew was that he'd been kept locked away all his life and had never seen anyone else. His food was pushed through his door late at night when he was asleep. He had no language so he had to be taught how to speak, and he became something of a celebrity. In the end he was murdered so no-one ever really knew who he was. There was a theory that he might be the illegitimate offspring of some royal figure and he'd been hidden away somewhere to avoid embarrassment."

When Casper Hauser was found in Nuremburg he was 16 years old. He appeared to have never seen everyday things like fire and when he was taught to speak, told of having been raised all his life in a dark room. In 1833, when he was 21 years old, an attempted murder on the 14th of December eventually led to his death on the 17th. His grave can be found on the Johannisfriedhof in Ansbach (Hic iacet Casparus Hauser. Aenigma sui temporis. Ignota nativitas. Oculta mors).
Suzanne Vega also wrote a song about Casper Hause; Wooden Horse (Caspar Hauser's Song)..

Peter: "I just thought it was an intruiging idea for a story but to put it in a modern setting, to give it more urban environment and make it less progressive rock.
So we just developed this idea of him being part of some experiment which kind of brings it in line with modern conspiracy theories, that sort of area of interest, but the focus of it still being this guy's emotions and how he reacts to all these new experiences. I still think, in a story, the thing you connect with is how the central character reacts to what's going on and what that person's emotions are. Although the story does have a fantasy element it's still the emotional core of it which is the important aspect as far as I'm concerned.
I remember when we were writing
Infernal Chorus we said it would be great if the song could just stop and he realises he's got a knife or a gun in his hand. It was really good because the stop combined all three aspects: musical, story and visual. I found the whole writing process very enjoyable and we really were writing as a band. The strength of IQ still comes down to what we all contribute."


So, the Casper Hauser incidents of the 19th century influenced the writing of the story of Subterranea, but what exactly was the story that evolved from that ? The following has been pieced together from various interviews and conversations with Peter and Martin.

Subterranea is about a guy who's been the subject of an experiment. He's been held captive, almost like sensory deprivation, throughout his whole life and he doesn't have any contact with the outside world (Provider). At the end of Provider there's this grating sound, which is where he escapes or is let loose.
Actually, it's not quite clear of the subject really escapes or is let out on purpose, as part of the experiment. Band members have given various explanations. Martin: "As part of the experiment after all the sensory deprivation, he's let loose in the outside world. So he goes of into the outside world, all the time being monitored by these people.". Let's assume that it was indeed an intentional release.
The central character doesn't know why he is imprisoned. He doesn't know why he's released and he is exposed to all this sensory overload, all these sights and sounds and smells and stuff that he's never experienced before. He has to digest all these things (cars, buildings, television, etc) in one overwelming sensation (Subterranea).
After some hard times among homeless and hobo's (Sleepless Incidental) he gets involved with a religious cult who try to take him in, because they see him as being easy prey. They try to give his live meaning because he doesn't know what the hell is going on, but he refuses to be converted by them (Failsafe).

He meets a girl - this is probably 'Maya', who is mentioned several times at the end of the album - and falls in love with her. He has a deep friendship/romance with this person (Speak My Name) but in the end she is taken away from him (Tunnel Vision). According to some explanations she is killed by the people who held him prisoner.
There's a lot of anger at that point and than he realises that he's being followed. All the time he's being watched and he manages to get hold of this person. And he kills him, because he's so pissed off, but not before he forces him to reveal the name of the man who is responsible for his misery (Mockenrue) (Infernal Chorus).
He just can't handle it all so he retreats into his own mind, which is basically what King of Fools is all about. Then there's a period of quiet reflection, The Sense in Sanity, where he tries to work out what's happening, and a big rush back to reality with State of Mine.

On the second disc of the album he comes to realise that he's part of some form of experiment. That he's been kept in away for some reason, so he needs to know why that's happened. At a certain point he takes on a 'disguise' to be able to find out what's behind all of this (Capricorn). Along the way he also realises that life in the outside world is much harder than his earlier, controlled life (Unsolid Ground).
As the story moves on, he realises that he's not the only victim of the experiment (Somewhere in Time); there are others who all carry the same mark, the strange symbol which is a recurring theme on the CD sleeve; the square IQ logo. Noticed the tattoo on the arm of the man on the Sleepless Incidental page ?
Mockenrue's victims decide to team up and take revenge (High Waters), but their captors being rather good at this are too clever for them, they herd them all into an old building and set fire to it in an attempt to destroy the evidence (The Narrow Margin). In a dramatic confrontation he meets the person responsible for locking him away. In the final scene, the central character is the only survivor and he kind of resigns himself to going back into the same isolation where he started, so the whole thing comes full circle.
Whereas the album starts with him being on his own and not knowing why he's there or what's going on. The album ends with him at peace with himself because he's experienced, himself, so many terrible things and he wants to be alone again. So he returns to a place of isolation, which isn't specified.

Peter: "The focus of the album is very much the central character's feelings and reactions to all these new experiences. He goes through a whole range of emotions, from confusion and fear through love and anger to eventual acceptance."

The Show

Months before the album was actually released IQ and their crew had already worked very hard on translating the concept of the album into a multimedia live show. One of the things that was designed was a retractable gauze screen. This piece of equipment that hangs above the front of the stage had been developed by Assistant Lighting & Projection Coordinator Martin 'Oggie' Ogden, although various people had told him that it couldn't be done. Now IQ is the only band with such a device.
The thing basically consisted of a piece of gauze textile attached to an old sewage pipe which was connected to a small motor that could be used to rotate the pipe. As a result the screen would roll up or down when the motor was turned on.
The retractable gauze device played a very important role in the show. When the stage was unlit the screen functioned as a movie screen and the projector at the mixing desk in the hall could display film footage on it. When lights on the stage are turned on the screen practically becomes transparent and you could see right through it. Both features can also be combined so that you could see the band play behind the screen while films are projected in front of them. This proved to be a very spooky effect, used during songs like The Narrow Margin, but more about that later. All in all the device was brilliant in its simplicity and proved to be very effective during the show.

At the back of the stage a second white sheet was pulled up. On this one additional films could be projected when the gauze screen had been rolled up. In front of the screen and just behind Martin's and Paul's instruments an elevated walkway was build which Pete would use quite a lot during the show. Combined the walkway and screen could create some nice effects. For instance, during Sleepless Incidental the metro station picture which can be found in the middle of the CD booklet would be projected on the back screen, turning the walkway into a platform.

Peter: "I'm always slightly reluctant with lyrics and stories with themes and things to explain them in detail. Because I think the most important thing, and the most interesting thing of them is for people to make their own interpretation. Similarly with this show we use a lot of visuals, there's a lot of visual information. We use slides and projections. And in some ways I think that's slightly limiting because when you listen to an album you have your own visual interpretation of what's going on. You get images in your head, I mean I certainly do, I'm not sure if people listening to the album will do that. So when we present the show on stage and we have images it's not an attempt by us to say this is what's happening, but it is an attempt to say this is what we were thinking about when we wrote the songs. But now it's up to you to interpret it how you want to interpret it."

Between the screen at the front and the one at the back a rig with six expensive looking lights had been set up; Golden Scan 3s. These machines were able to create light beams and move them around by means of reflection in a rotating mirror. Also, the colour of the light could be changed and the beams could be shaped in various patterns, creating circles, triangles and other figures on the stage.

Another nice gadget was the extra microphone and camera in the wing of the stage. These would be used during King of Fools. Pete's head could be filmed and projected right back on the gauze screen while Martin and Mike would play the keyboard parts of the track, resulting in a huge spooky head floating above the stage.

The show had it's premiere in Bury, where the band played it twice (September 5th and 6th) to coincide with the release of the album. During both nights IQ played straight through the entire 103 minute album, non-stop.
Before playing the Bury gigs, Peter Nicholls said: "Essentially, we wanted to do more than 'good evening, this one's from' ... etc, exploiting our back catalogue and so on. This is the whole double album performed straight through, with possibly a couple of surprises at the end."

Even though the concerts coincided with a Fish gig on the 5th and the funeral of Princess Diana on the 6th, the gigs were well attended and very well received (especially considering the fact that the audience had never heard the 100+ minutes musical piece before).

Here's an extensive description of the Subterranea show:

The sounds of the tuning orchestra filled the venue. A couple of taps from the conductor and Subterranea hit people right in the face ! As the first bombastic notes of Overture were played a tower in the middle of a field was projected on the rolled down gauze screen. Inside the tower a man in white clothes (Pete) held his head in his hands and rocked to and fro. With fear in his eyes he looked around, opened the door and ran away from the tower. The up-tempo part of Overture kicked in while he fled away from his confinement, all the time looking back as if someone was following him.
Provider. Projections on the gauze screen faded. Yellow light on the stage behind it was turned on. Pete, dressed in white clothes, could be seen through the screen, kneeling with a light pattern projected on the screen behind him, which created the effect of a barred window. The sound of the iron gate opening. He was free. Free to wander off into ....
... Subterranea. The gauze screen was rolled up while the band went into the title track. Mike, John, Paul and Martin were all dressed in black clothes with square IQ logos, contrasting the outside world with the innocence of the character Pete was playing.
While he stumbled across the stage footage of the city shot across the back screen. London, Tower Bridge, Traffic, High Buildings, enough to make Pete dazzle and fall to the ground. Stunning acting performance; Pete really 'lived' his role.
Sleepless Incidental. A metro station was projected on the back screen, turning the walkway into a platform. [During later performances of the show, Peter wore a white blindfold during the first verses of Sleepless Incidental]. Martin's splendid keyboard solo set the mood for the priest/cult leader to arrive.
Failsafe. Mike's guitar solo. Wonderful patterns were produced by the light projectors. Pete came back on stage wearing a black cloak and round sunglasses, playing the religious leader. When the answer came ('Leave me alone ...') he flung off the cloack. Wooden religious statues and leaded lights were projected on the back screen.
Speak my Name. This wonderful resting point of the album was played in atmospheric lighting. [Later performances featured the woman's face from the CD booklet projected on the backdrop].
Tunnel Vision. More moving lights. [During later performances the song featured footage of Pete being rolled around in a wooden box. This showed a striking resemblance with a video by one of Pete's favourite vocalists, Tori Amos]. At the end Mike went over to an extra keyboard by the side of Martin's rig to play the transition into Infernal Chorus. Pete came back on stage. He had changed his white shirt for a black one and a black jacket; 'Something happened inside ....'. The decay had begun with him killing one of the agents following him. The stage light turned red. [Later shows in 1998 actually featured both Peter with a creepy leather SM mask and the agent appearing on the walkway and manipulating Peter like a puppet on strings before being killed by Pete.]
King of Fools. The gauze screen came down again. Mike went back to the keyboard to play the menacing opening of King of Fools. He and Martin could be seen through the screen in the blue stage light. Then suddenly an eerie face appeared in front of them, floating above the stage, projected on the gauze screen; Pete, wearing small round sunglasses singing King of Fools. Very spooky, very effective.
Sense in Sanity. The gauze screen was retracted again. Pete came back, standing singing by the side of the stage while Mike and Martin played the keyboards and beautiful light effects were made. [In later shows Pete would be sitting on the walkway in a director's chair].
State of Mine. Fast-forwarded footage of traffic shot across the back screen. A couple of seconds of silence.
Laid Low. Martin and Mike played this beautiful opener of the second disk.
Breathtaker. Another rocking track with effective lighting. While Pete's clothing slowly changed from white to black the other band members changed their clothes from black to white, bit by bit and one by one. Probably as a symbol for the lost innocence of the main character compared to the outside world.
Capricorn. Martin played the saxophone bits on the keyboard. The screen showed raindrops falling into puddles. [Some of the final performances featured sax player Tony Wright live on both this track and Subterranea].
The Other Side. Moving clouds flew across the back screen while Mike and Martin performed this instrumental piece. During Unsolid Ground the Gold Scans were also used to their best effects.
Somewhere in Time / High Waters. Two other songs with great lighting. At one point the square symbol (IQ logo) which was used to mark Mockenrue's testing subjects appeared in huge form on the back screen.
'Clank-Tingy-Tingy-Clank-Tingy'. The Narrow Margin had begun. One of the highlights of the show, played perfectly and with amazing effects. During the middle section ('Every one of us is herded ... ') the gauze screen came down and a tunnel-like pattern with sparkles of light around a big hole was projected on it. Pete stepped back on the elevated walkway, standing exactly in the center of the circle. When he sang the words 'and the kerosene's ignited', projected flames shot up on the gauze screen. As a result Pete could be seen standing in a sea of fire.
The lights on the stage were turned of while the projected flames remained and the sound effect tape was started. The fire sequence, very eerie.
The band went into the up-tempo part while the screen was rolled-up once again. Mike and John took center stage to 'do their thing' while images of moving trains (looking a lot like the old Supertramp footage for Rudy) were projected on the backdrop. At the end the screen came down again, Pete once again kneeled in the middle of the walkway. He was now fully dressed in black, while the rest of the band wore white. The barred window pattern was projected behind him once again. He was back in his confinement. The iron gate closed and the lights went off. Darkness. Subterranea had ended.

The band performed the full Subterranea show 16 times in front of an audience. Shows that were played in between and after the Subterranea tours included a selection of songs from the album and as many of the film footage and effects as the band could take along.

In the second lapse of the Subterranea performances (1998) several new bits of footage and theatrics had been added to the show.

During the last lapse of the Subterranea shows (1999) Pete was still adding bits and pieces to the theatrics of his performance. Some of it (the blindfold in Sleepless Incidental) made it into the actual shows, while other bits (a pair of white gloves with mirrors on the fingertips) where discarded.

Five Years

It's now more than five years since the audience got their first 'glimpse' of Subterranea during live shows in the end of 1994. After Subterranea the band releases two items with older material, Seven Stories into '98 (featuring a completely rerecorded plus the original version of their debut cassette album Seven Stories Into Eight) and The Lost Attic. The latter was a rarities album that also included two left-overs from the Subterranea sessions (Eyes for the Blind and Universal Scam).

Written by Ed Sander

Sources for Part 2:
Collected Underground article.
Living a Life in a Day ... With IQ article.
• The IQ FAQ.
• Various articles on The Lush Attic.
• Various Subterranea reviews in the DPRP Concert Review Archive.
• Paperlate interview (IQ Newsletter #39) & IO Pages interview (It All Posts Here #369).
• Various Official Fan Club Magazines and Fascination magazines.
• Live pictures by BJ van der Vorst.

Album Reviews